Kent State: Simply the best

Doug Gulasy

Do you know the situation when something is in a completely different class than its competitors?

Think “Major League” among baseball comedies, for example. Or “Go Your Own Way” among Fleetwood Mac songs. They’re clearly better.

And after the Kent State men’s basketball team’s 74-61 victory at Akron on Friday night, it seems like the right time to put the Flashes in that category as well. Even with their three conference losses, the Flashes are on a different level than their closest competitors in the Mid-American Conference.

If you need proof, look no further than the victory Friday night. The game wasn’t as close as the score indicates.

Kent State didn’t just defeat its closest rival — the Flashes dominated the Zips. They led their arch-rival by as many as 20 points in the second half before Akron made a late run to make the score more respectable.

Akron coach Keith Dambrot called it the biggest home butt whooping the Zips have experienced in his six years as coach. And Akron fans would likely agree, as they were streaming toward the exits with five minutes remaining in the game.

Before the game Friday night, folks around the MAC were calling the Zips and Flashes the best two teams the conference has to offer. If that’s the case, then it proves Kent State’s supremacy over its league-mates.

The Zips, who the Flashes have now beat by a combined 30 points in two meetings, had the second-best league record (12-4). The other 10 teams are at 9-7 or worse.

Of course, this different level stuff only applies when Kent State brings its best game. That happened Friday night, and it happened earlier in the conference season when the Flashes ran off eight straight victories. Five of those games were won by 17 points or more.

On their worst nights, the Flashes aren’t at that higher level. They’re at a level with some of the mediocre teams in the conference. They lost to Bowling Green, which finished 6-10 in MAC play. They needed a second-half comeback to top the Falcons in their second meeting. And they also needed a late comeback to beat Ohio, which finished 7-9.

But on Kent State’s best nights, those other MAC teams aren’t even close.

Sure, the conference has other good teams. Just as baseball comedies has “A League of Their Own” and Fleetwood Mac has “Rhiannon,” the MAC has Akron (the Zips were 12-4 for a reason), Buffalo (who beat the Flashes) and Miami (ditto). But Kent State has beaten all those teams when playing its best — including blowout victories over the Bulls and Zips.

Why are the Flashes superior when playing at their best?

Let’s put it this way: At their best, the Flashes can shoot from outside, they can score in the low post, they can pass, they can drive and they can dunk.

Most importantly, the Flashes can defend. They held Akron, one of the conference’s best offenses, to nine points below its average. Come March, defending is always important. Defense wins championships, right?

So while I can’t guarantee who will be cutting down the nets at the “Q” on Saturday night, I would put my money on the No. 1 seed. Because while I like “Rookie of the Year,” I’d rather watch “Major League.” And I’d rather have Kent State in the NCAA Tournament than Akron because it’s always better to watch the best.

Contact editor Doug Gulasy at [email protected].